Grandparents adopt grandkids in wake of tragedy

Bob and Pat Krusell at a restaurant on Lake Superior. The North Shore is a popular destination for the Dellwood couple and their grandchildren.

Bob and Pat Krusell sat on their white couch holding back tears as they remembered their son-in-law Steve Berger.

On Oct. 1, 2017, the day after he turned 44, Berger was one of the 58 killed in the Las Vegas shooting. He left behind three children 9, 13 and 15. He was married to Bob and Pat's daughter, Joanna, who had a major stroke in August 2014 and cannot care for the children on her own. Joanna and Steve were divorced when Steve died, so their children, two girls and a boy, needed someone to care for them.

That is where Bob and Pat come in. They drove an hour each way to and from their home in White Bear to Minnetonka to make sure their three grandkids got the care they needed in the weeks after their father's death. Now, nearly eight months later, the Krusells are completing the process of legally adopting their grandchildren so they can stay with them in their home.

“Needless to say, we have been scrambling getting the adoption papers done,” Pat said. “Unless you have been through it you do not know how wonky the process is.”

Before the adoption, the grandkids were living with their aunt in Wisconsin. The grandson came to live with his grandparents in April and the two granddaughters came when the school year ended.

Bob and Pat have a deep relationship with their grandkids. They attend their sporting events, take trips to the North Shore with them and let them ride the tractor at their 2.5-acre home. Bob enjoys building birdhouses with his grandson and Pat would take the kids on a “Grandma Camp.”

“We have a history with the kids from the minute they (were) born and we have always been close with them,” Pat said.

The good relationship helped the children through the mourning process. Bob and Pat were there answering late-night telephone calls and trying to help answer the difficult questions that come with the circumstances of his death.

“We are very close, very loving and very affectionate. We go to church with them, so they know who the Lord is,” Bob said.

Church has been a vital part of the Krusell's life. They attend St. Andrew’s Lutheran in Mahtomedi. Admittedly, Bob and Pat said after their son-in-law's death they did not go to church for awhile. However, now they are back regularly attending and have been pleased to know that their grandson reads his Bible every night before he goes to bed.

“This has been a beautiful story of hope rising up from tremendous loss and grief,” said Pastor Brian Norsman, the pastor of outreach and mission at St. Andrew’s.

“Bob and Pat, in the midst of their own grief, are being called deeply to pour out their God-given gifts, love, and passions as grandparents into these kids to help them get their lives back on track.”

The support Bob and Pat received from the Minnetonka community was overwhelming, they said.

“The outreach of people has been amazing,” Pat said. “Even the folks at St. Andrew’s church have offered amazing support.”

Pat remembers putting the youngest granddaughter to bed shortly after the tragedy. She slept in her dad's old room. She got out of bed and went into the walk-in closet that held all of his clothes and shoes. The youngster came out wearing a hat, shirt and a tie, with her dad's shoes on, all of which were way too big for the 9-year-old. Pat's heart broke when she saw her.

“The ramifications of what happened to our family goes on and on and on,” Pat said. “There are 50-plus families across the United States that are going through similar circumstances. The pain goes on.”

The couple finished their basement just in time to absorb their expanded family. Their daughter, the children's mother, lives in Mahtomedi, so she will see them as often as possible.

“They are adding to our lives,” Bob said. “The new insight of life has been remarkable.”

Due to the circumstances, Bob and Pat asked that their grandchildren's names not be published.

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